Calls to penalise Ireland over live export regulation breaches

A formal complaint has reportedly been made to Brussels for claimed “systematic failures” by Irish exporters in relation to breaches in compliance with EU legislation on the protection of animals in transit.

The complaints were made to the European Commission for Agriculture and Rural Development by four animal welfare organisations, according to RTE.

The animal welfare groups are calling on the commission to bring infringement proceedings against Ireland nationally because of the claimed recurrent nature of breaches in animal transport regulations dating back to 1999.

The latest alleged breach RTE says was documented recently by Dutch charity Eyes on Animals, which claims it followed calves which sailed from Ireland to the French port of Cherbourg and later to other European destinations.

The calves were believed to be between two and four weeks of age.

Mandatory rest times

According to the Dutch NGO, Irish exporters are in breach of mandatory rest times and feed access set down for calves under EU Council Regulation 1/2005, which states that, after 18 hours of travel by sea, unweaned calves must be unloaded from the truck, rested and fed.

If the 18-hour limit is exceeded while the calves are at sea, they must be unloaded for at least 12 hours on arrival at the port of destination or in its immediate vicinity.

Eyes on Animals has stated that a number of Irish calf trucks did not comply with this, claiming that upon reaching Cherbourg after a 19-hour journey, some trucks were witnessed directly driving a further five hours before unloading their calves for feeding and rest.

According to the welfare charity, the driver of one truck confirmed the calves in his care had been confined to his truck for over 32 hours.


RTE reports that another animal welfare charity, Compassion in World Farming, has contributed to the official complaint, referring to breaches on access to water and the number of attendants present when travelling by sea.

A group of between 4,000 and 5,000 calves were purportedly supervised by just three attendants, the group contends, adding that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine apparently approved the journey logs in advance.

According to RTE, the Department of Agriculture responded to the above claims by noting that extreme weather conditions earlier this spring had put pressure on transport arrangements to the continent.

It reportedly acknowledged, in circumstances where resting and feeding stations were full, it did issue permission to transporters to drive on.

Regarding the Cherbourg exports witnessed by Eyes on Animals, facilities were available for calves but trucks chose to drive on.

The department confirmed to RTE that these transporters have been penalised following a full investigation.

The department reportedly added that, from 2019 on, all calf exporters must use the rest and feeding stations nearest the port of Cherbourg.